Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Monolith Productions
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Linux, Mac
Along with the Best Developer of 2014.
Best Gameplay Mechanic
Games are often defined by one simple characteristic: Graphics. As they should be, since the first thing a consumer will look at is the graphics. Debates about graphics fitting the tone of the game and adding to the gameplay or just standing on their own and becoming the game a la Myst can wait another day.
However, it’s the gameplay that will keep players coming back. An original mechanic or innovative twist on a time-worn classic often keep the player hooked beyond his or her understanding. It can add to the experience and really make one consider their actions as with Gears of Wars’ Active Reload or Titanfall’s Parkour.
Which gameplay mechanic this year succeeded in drawing the player in and exploring every single possibility it had to offer? Which mechanic offered hours of unique fun and intrigue, endlessly mixing things up and ensuring the experience never got old? Given the number of unique ideas this year – some which didn’t pan out – it was hard to choose but there was a clear favourite among the bunch.
Winner: Nemesis System – Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor
Monolith Productions’ idea for the Nemesis System in Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor seemed simple yet highly complex. A system that actually made each enemy unique? A hierarchy you could manipulate to influence the balance of power in Mordor? Enemies that remembered your encounters and responded accordingly, each with their own strengths and weaknesses? It all sounded pretty cool but we had to wait and see how it worked.
As it turns, the Nemesis System worked out extremely well. You could be in the process of assassinating one Orc captain and suddenly be attacked by three more. You could send a feisty little Uruk up the food chain and see how far he progressed before dominating his mind and earning his allegiance. Orcs could be turned upon Orcs and struggles for power could be disrupted to kill two birds with one stone.
The best part is that it all fit in quite well with the Middle Earth lore, even if the overarching story was full of discrepancies. As it stands, Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a good action adventure, third person hack and slash title. But the Nemesis System, among other things, helped make it truly great.
Worst Gameplay Mechanic
Just as good mechanics can leap out and further captivate a player already bedazzled by the sights and sounds of a great game, so can horrible mechanics draw one out of a game and make it extremely hard to bear.
Destiny’s random number generator received plenty of flak especially before Bungie patched the Engram system to allow Legendary Engrams to provide Legendary Gear. Before the patch, it wasn’t odd to pick up an Exotic Engram and see it decrypt into a worthless Blue Item. Speaking of Exotics, Bungie seemingly shot itself in the foot with Exotic Upgrades for The Dark Below expansion when it told players to spend a substantial amount of coin and re-grind their Exotic Weapons and Gear from scratch to take advantage of increased stats.
There were plenty of other stand-out stupidities including the inane decision making process of Far Cry 4, wherein you decided whether to follow Sabal or Amita or just hang out in Pagan Min’s house because he’s the least stupid of the bunch. Or the so-called “hacking” of Watch Dogs which seemed hokey at best and clunky at worst. If you think about it, Ubisoft was pretty determined to make this their roughest year yet.
Winner: Assassin’s Creed Unity – Play the App to Unlock Chests
It’s one thing to force players into micro-transactions and purchase things simply to speed up the game. It’s another thing to introduce a pathetic movement system that actually makes navigating the open world more difficult than before. It’s yet something else to introduce a co-op mechanic that doesn’t feel special, much less work when your game first releases. And you’re really rolling the dice when your game is just broken and you release it anyway.
All that said, having to play an app just to unlock certain chests in Assassin’s Creed: Unity has to be one of the stupidest mechanics ever.
Not only is the companion app boring and a chore but you have to sync it with your actual game. This means stopping what you’re doing, loading the app and playing the portion in order to get the chest. Thanks to all the bugs, it wasn’t even guaranteed the chest would open.
A word of advice to Ubisoft: In the future, when you want introduce f**king stupid mechanics in your game, introduce them into your brain first to at least invoke hemorrhaging and possible death. Whatever gets the job done at this point really.
Developer of the Year
Hilariously or perhaps not, many top-tier and trusted developers failed to garner sympathy with our judges. Bungie’s Destiny, for example, may have been a better experience than initial reviews described but it was still seen as a game who’s campaign and content was lacking compared to the company’s best efforts.
It was the less likely developers that truly stuck out. Monolith Productions won over many hearts with Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor but Platinum Games curried even more favour with Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U. This is to say nothing about the stellar effort that Bioware put forth with Dragon Age: Inquisition, a game which redeemeed the franchise and reignited our love for Western RPGs in one fell swoop.
However, once again, there can be only one winner and sadly, the runners-up just couldn’t compare to what the oldest player in the game had in store.
Remember one year ago when we were all criticizing Nintendo for failing to expand its franchises into the mobile space? Or when we thought it was doing a horrible job with the Wii U? How about the lack of compelling games on the 3DS when it first came out?
Nintendo sought to show us all up this year on both the home console and handheld front. Super Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS, Mario Kart 8, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors, Kirby: Triple Deluxe, Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby…that’s not even counting the number of releases that the company helped publish including Bayonetta 2.
The future looks even better with The Legend of Zelda, Splatoon, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Star Fox, Mario Maker and Mario Party 10 out next year. For all amazing efforts and hours of fun it brought us this year, Nintendo is our Best Developer of 2014.
Note: GamingBolt’s Game of the Year categories, nominations and awards are selected via an internal nomination, voting and debate process. You can check the rest of categories and the respective winners here.